Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson Planning District

Programming the “Livability” GPS

By. Neil Williamson, President

This afternoon (9/20), the Charlottesville City Planning Commission and the Albemarle County Planning Commission will hold a joint meeting as a part of their “Many Plans, One Community” Comprehensive Plan update.  The agenda for this meeting includes a discussion of congruency of Environmental goals and the start of a discussion on the compatibility of land use adjacent t the City/County border.

On the surface such a planning exercise seems benign, perhaps even appropriate but it’s much more than a simple planning exercise.  This may be the first step in changing the priorities in each localities comprehensive plan.

Without being overly dramatic, the Free Enterprise Forum is concerned the “Many Plans, One Community” has predetermined the result of their three year process as if they were programming the destination on their GPS.

Please let me explain.

As a review, Federally funded ($999,000) “Many Plans One Community” planning exercise is being conducted to provide:

updates  to Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s comprehensive plans, the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO’s Long Range Transportation Plan, and the creation of a Livability Implementation Plan for our area.

Each localities state mandated Comprehensive Plan must be updated every five years.  In their documentation, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) indicated that :

As a part of the Comprehensive Plan update process, the two localities will review current policies in existing plans.

Perhaps due to the funding source , the review of environmental goals is first up on the agenda for discussion with a number of meetings designed around solely that purpose.

Wait a minute, isn’t a comprehensive plan supposed to be, well, comprehensive?   Shouldn’t the planners (and the Planning Commissioners) seek to place the environmental goal in context to other goals (density, affordable housing, economic development)?

Taking a step back, it appears the staff has designed a “silo” based philosophy as it relates to the elements of the comprehensive plan.  silos-225x300Writing in a BusinessWeek post “Smashing Silos”, Evan Golden defined the silo mentality this way:

The term “silo” is a metaphor suggesting a similarity between grain silos that segregate one type of grain from another and the segregated parts of an organization. In an organization suffering from silo syndrome, each department or function interacts primarily within that “silo” rather than with other groups across the organization. Marketing may develop its own culture and have difficulty interacting with other functions such as sales or engineering. This manifestation of silo syndrome breeds insular thinking, redundancy, and suboptimal decision-making.

The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned that by leading with environmental goals the other priorities in the respective Comprehensive Plan may fall subservient.   While this may be completely appropriate and accurately reflect what the elected officials desire, the public may never know; because it is not being discussed comprehensively.

Clearly the “livability plan” GPS has been programmed with a single focus and destination in mind.

And very few citizens seem to be paying attention and fewer still are asking the hard questions:

What are the most important goals?

Are our goals in conflict?

Where is this taking us?  Do we want to go?  Why?

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org


Charlottesville Planning Commission Considers Zoning Ordinance Amendments

By. Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern

The Charlottesville City Planning Commission met on Tuesday night (6/14) for their monthly meeting to deliver reports as well as to evaluate proposed amendments to the City Zoning Ordinance, and to examine a waiver request to the Critical Slopes Ordinance.

In the initial reports, Chairman Jason Pearson, who will be leaving the commission at the end of the month, announced the creation of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Corporation. This non-profit corporation is designed to strengthen the work of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) by making it easier for the organization to accept private funds on behalf of the region and localities. The purpose of the corporation is to allow localities to identify unfunded projects within their comprehensive plans and to allow private funds to be connected to the projects.

Staff proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Charlottesville with the intention of clarifying the validity periods of Certificates of Appropriateness. The proposed amendments synchronize the validity of Certificates of Appropriateness with valid site plans to avoid unnecessary reapplications.

A Certificate of Appropriateness is currently valid for one year unless an applicant obtains either a building permit, or an administrative extension of one year. The proposed text amendment maintains the requirement that preliminary site plans be approved within the year that the Certificate of Appropriateness is valid. However the amendment ensures that if a preliminary site plan is approved within the initial, one year time frame, the applicant does not have to go back to design review after the expiration of the Certificate of Appropriateness. In other words, the Certificate of Appropriateness will remain valid as long as a site plan is valid (five years), under the proposed changes. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the amendments to City Council after adjusting the initial validity of a Certificate of Appropriateness from one year to eighteen months. These amendments will proceed to review by City Council.

In another unanimous vote, the Planning Commission followed the staff recommendation to recommend approval of a waiver to the Critical Slopes Ordinance for a proposed Wertland Street Apartment Building. “Finding 3” (as basis for waiver) of the current Critical Slopes Ordinance reads that a waiver may be granted if “due to unusual size, topography, shape, location or other unusual physical conditions of a property one (1) or more of these critical slopes provisions would effectively prohibit or unreasonably restrict the use of such property or would result in significant degradation of the site, or adjacent properties”. The commission reasoned that restricting the use of this particular critical slope would unreasonably restrict plans to increase density in the area, which is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

The Commission added conditions to their approval for waiver, requiring the applicant to incorporate Low Impact Development Strategies and Stormwater Best Management Practices, as well as a design solution to reduce the visual impacts of the retaining wall to adjacent properties.

Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Property Rights Top Concern for ‘Historic District’ Owners

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

Property rights in Stanardsville’s “historic district” appeared to be the main concern in the comprehensive plan, as the Greene County  Planning Commission discovered Wednesday night during a public hearing on a draft to update the town’s current plan.

At issue is the consideration of a Historic District Ordinance to protect and preserve structures designated within the town of Stanardsville’s historic district and what such regulations might mean to property owners.

Doris Snow, a Greene County native who, along with her husband Phillip, owns one of the homes designated as historic, said that she advocates the plan’s vision statement but is against establishing such an ordinance because it would restrict property rights and impose regulations that could be costly to owners.

“We don’t want to put undue restrictions on businesses coming into the county,” Snow said, adding that imposing strict regulations on structures deemed historical would discourage potential investors. She also was concerned about limiting what current homeowners can do to improve their homes. “My husband and I have spent a decade making renovations in our house, many of them ‘green’ improvements that would not have been allowed under this regulation.”

buggs peytonStanardsville Supervisor Buggs Peyton, who is also a town resident, agreed that the ordinance is “the most bothersome item” of the comprehensive plan and strongly objected to any regulations that would interfere with homeowners’ rights.

Another Stanardsville historic homeowner, Jackie Pamenter, had a different opinion, citing that the ordinance “doesn’t need to be restrictive, but people have a duty and a responsibility to keep up their [historic] buildings. The ordinance could be worded in such a way to not be so restrictive, but to simply state the need to protect buildings from careless neglect.”

One of the new business owners in town, Matt O’Varanese, who recently opened The Standard Eatery restaurant on Main Street, brought up other concerns such as speeding on the 25 mph road and evidence of criminal activity on the street, suggesting both be addressed to improve the town’s appeal. He also expressed concern about regulations and the need to ensure owners keep up their properties, but added, “The trick is in the balance.”

After listening to further public input, commissioners agreed that a balance needs to be found in imposing any restrictions on personal property rights. “The end goal is the revitalization of Stanardsville,” said Commissioner Anthony Herring.

imageCommissioners unanimously agreed that the public’s recommendations, including concerns about the town’s infrastructure and inaccurate population estimates that affect Stanardsville’s ability to apply for grants, be turned over to the working committee to be incorporated into the final plan.

The working committee, which includes Planning Director Bart Svoboda and several town residents, prepared the initial draft in conjunction with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. They will now meet to revise the draft before presenting it to the Stanardsville Town Council.

Sharp readers of the Free Enterprise Forum blog will remember the TJPDC was recently was awarded an almost $1 million dollar grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to coordinate comprehensive planning revisions for City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia.

Stanardsville Mayor Gary Lowe emphasized, “This is a draft. We’re in the process of getting more suggestions, getting more eyes to look at it. We will have at least one more public hearing and would like to receive input from all walks of life.”

In addition to the historic ordinance, the 31-page comprehensive plan addresses issues such as economic development, infrastructure, and community design and land use. It is available for viewing at http://www.tjpdc.org/pdf/Community/StanardsvilleComp_5-6Draft.pdf


Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County, The Lafayette Inn

Many Staffs, Many Plans — Is the New Planning Paradigm Staff Driven?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Thanks to a three year, $999,000 grant from the Federal Government, The City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, The University of Virginia and The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) are working together to develop the “Livable Communities Planning Project”. 

The Free Enterprise Forum has raised significant concerns of the different perspectives regarding livability between city residents and county residents.  The Meadowcreek Parkway and Community Water supply issue are just two of the latest examples of different visions.

But this week, we are also concerned that the professional staffing for this project is ideologically homogenous with a significant new urbanist philosophical bent.  In a normal planning process we would not be as concerned because it is a more formalized public process with significant resident and business input.  This process values input but is process driven.

Summer Fredrick, a former Senior Planner in Albemarle who resigned to join TJPDC specifically to  head up this effort, said in the Daily Progress last week:

“This is a process-driven project, but the process is only as good as the input we get.”

The kick off event, held in the lobby of Albemarle County’s Lane Auditorium seemed crowded as folks milled about looking a number of different posters and speaking to planners about the Livable Communities Planning Project. 

Reflecting on the meeting, I was struck by the large number of staff in attendance.  I looked back on the photo by Brian Wheeler that ran in The Daily Progress:

staffing one community launch

Photo Credit: Charlottesville Tomorrow Staff Identification by Free Enterprise Forum

It is important to note that The Free Enterprise Forum has worked with staff from all of the organizations represented in the Livable Communities Planning Project.  On the whole we have found these staff members to be solid planning professionals.  Given the federal funding and the significant in-kind staff support each of the participants are bringing to the table, citizens must remain vigilant that their perspectives are represented.  This will require a three year commitment from community members as well as advocacy groups.

We know the staff will remain engaged; will the public?

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org


Fluvanna Board of Supervisors: Reality Checks

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

At their December 1st meeting Fluvanna County’s supervisors were briefed on a number of issues that presage more difficult times for county residents and government alike. For example, debt service payments will increase dramatically over the next two fiscal years to pay for the new high school, according to the latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Debt service will exceed the county’s current policy of twelve percent of governmental revenue by several percentage points, even when federal and state funding is included.

Moreover, the county’s undesignated fund balance, or savings account, also has fallen below the county’s target ratio – also at 12 percent – of savings to expenditures. This will further reduce the Board’s flexibility to adjust the budget during the fiscal year.

Supervisors also were briefed on the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) concept currently under review. The Commonwealth’s initial proposal was submitted just two days prior to the Board meeting and discussed only in general terms.

According to Ms. Leslie Middleton of the Rivanna River Basin Commission, alternative on site septic systems will become mandatory. They will be more expensive for homeowners, will require more maintenance and could become a cost burden to local governments.

Supervisors also approved the Thomas Jefferson Planning District’s 2011 Legislative Program Proposal, the last locality to do so. They also authorized the county administrator to enter into negotiations with a firm to develop financial forecasts that would assist in the budget process. The results should be available in February.

The Board appropriated $791,000 of federal education funds to the School Board. The school administration will use the funds to provide a one-time teacher bonus to restore pay cuts instituted earlier this year.

Greene Comprehensive Plan Inches Forward

Greene County Planning Commission Meeting

March 17, 2010

Teresa Gulyas, Greene County Field Officergreene county seal


  • Norm Slezak, Chair
  • Bill Martin, Vice Chair
  • Anthony Herring
  • Davis Lamb

Public Hearing items

  • Comprehensive Plan


This hearing was the final opportunity for public input to the Greene County Comprehensive Plan before the Planning Commission sends it forward to the Board of Supervisors for an additional Public Hearing and final approval. The Commission, who has worked with The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission on the plan, reviewed input previously received and heard public comments about the plan. The Planning Commission deferred approval until the next meeting to incorporate minor editorial changes and updated statistics into the plan.

New Business


  • The Stanardsville Town Council has expressed an interest in developing a closer working relationship with the Planning Commission. Board members were receptive to expanding this relationship.

TJPDC Editorial Bias and Cookie Cutter Comprehensive Planning in Greene County

By. Neil Williamson, President

Last night (12/16) the Greene County Planning Commission considered a number of issues regarding the proposed comprehensive plan.  In addition to hearing concerns voiced by the Free Enterprise Forum (more on this below), they also affirmed their decision to remove the parcel of land on U.S. 29 containing Highlands Golf Park from the current designated Development Areas and chose not to include a recommendation for a Ruckersville Citizen Council to be appointed. 

The Planning Commission also expressed general support for Greene County joining The Journey Through Hollowed Ground project but did not want to single out that organization in the comprehensive plan.

Some intrepid readers may recall, this blog has been critical of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s (TJPDC) management of the writing of Greene County’s new Comprehensive Plan.

In a March pos100_4056t, we highlighted TJPDC’s maps of Greene County included a blow out map of Zions’  crossroads.  In an April post, we raised the issue of TJPDC promoting groupthink and how county residents were being made to feel as though they were making planning decisions, when in fact they were being led like lemmings off a planner’s cliff.

The current document includes significant editorial commentary that is wholly inappropriate in a comprehensive plan.  A few tidbits:

the land use goals will have a direct impact on the health and viability of the agricultural industry in the county. [Page 2]

The land use goals will have a direct impact on all industries within the county.

The 2003 Greene County Comprehensive Plan estimated that the average new home built in the County costs $1,800 in government services above and beyond the tax revenue generated by the home. [Page 5]

since tax rates can remain low when residential growth is not expanding at a rapid pace. [Page 20]

tax rates remain low since residential development is slowed and county resources are not overburdened. [Page 20]

These statements are clearly opinion and ignore the fact that County government has the ability to change the equation at anytime by adjusting the tax rate or reducing services.  Tax rates are set by Boards of Supervisors and while tax levies are impacted by development, state mandates, citizen demands, even courthouse fires all impact the financial condition of the county

If these regulations or the underlying zoning do not reflect the intent of County planning policy, then the subdivision itself may not be consistent with current policies but must be approved anyway. [Page 26]

The word “anyway” is pejorative and should be struck.

To be fair the latest iteration of the Comprehensive Plan is much more  Greene centric but as we were reviewing the Land Use Chapter, we found a page that not only was never discussed by the public.  It was clearly cribbed from another TJPDC publication.  Page 23 reads in part:

“This document is intended to be a resource for the localities of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District on this topic”.

Later on the same page the TJPDC puts itself in the position of the master planner as it read:

“This requires much foresight as we put in the roads and pipelines to build the places we need.”

Faced with this type of language that until last night had not been called out by the Planning Commission, staff, or the public, one wonders how closely anyone is really reading the document.

Fluvanna Supervisors Punt on Draft Stormwater Regs

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors opted not to register its concerns over Virginia’s draft stormwater management regulations at its August 5th meeting.  Rather that pass a resolution that would have objected to the regulatory cost and the impacts upon developers and its land use policy, supervisors deferred any comment until after the state’s August 21st deadline.

As supervisors were discussing the issue, Chairman Marvin Moss (Columbia) made a surprise intervention to suggest a deferral.  Ostensibly, the reason was to wait for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District’s letter on the same subject.  That letter reportedly will be circulated just prior to the comment period deadline.  It appeared from the discussion that at least some supervisors were unfamiliar with the issue’s implications, despite supervisor John Gooch’s (Palmyra) efforts to inform them on previous occasions.

In another important decision, the supervisors approved a new zoning category:  the Planned Urban Development (PUD) district. The new district would permit significantly greater density in mixed-use developments designated for growth areas.  The likeliest area for initial development would be in the vicinity of Zion Crossroads  — which would require a minimum 20 acre PUD. 

Other areas of the county would require smaller minimum acreage.  Bonus density increases would be granted depending on the amount of open space in the proposal as well as commitments to affordable housing.  Supervisors did understand the linkage between affordable housing and the expenses that would be incurred to meet the states stormwater management regulations.

In other significant activity, supervisors accepted a proposal by DigitalBridge Communications to provide broadband services to under served (rural) areas of the county under Virginia’s Public-Private Educational Facilities and Infrastructure Policy Act (PPEA).  This will allow DigitalBridge to move forward with the design and grant application.

Supervisors will not meet again formally until September 2nd, but are scheduled to have a working lunch with Congressman Perriello on August 17th, at the Old Fluvanna Courthouse.

Greene County Board of Supervisors Hear from VDOT in Route 29 Corridor Study Work Session


By. Kara Reese Pennella, Greene County Field Officer

Action Summary:

Resolution recognizing volunteer fire departments and rescue squads as legally organized and authorized providers of fire and rescue services for inclusion in the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program – Approved

Resolution approving request from STAR to use the Courthouse/County Administration Grounds for the 4th of July Parade – Approved

Motion to award the contract for work on Pump Station #13 to Lance Construction of Broadway – Approved

The Greene County Board of Supervisors dealt with a light agenda on Tuesday, June 9, 2009. The Board welcomed Stephen Williams the new executive director of Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. They then held a work session with VDOT on the statewide Route 29 Corridor Study. The Board was able to dispose of most other matters quickly as part of the consent agenda.

Stephen Williams, Executive Director or Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) was introduced to the Board of Supervisors. Williams has twenty-five years of planning experience. He noted that his philosophy as director of TJPDC would be to “provide the best possible service to our member governments.”

VDOT US 29 StudyNext the Board of Supervisors heard from VDOT regarding the Route 29 Corridor Study. This is one of many overlapping studies currently being conducted on Route 29. This particular study focuses on Route 29 from Gainesville, Virginia all the way to the North Carolina Boarder and covers approximately 219 miles.  Workshop sessions have been held in several localities as a part of the study. As a result of those sessions VDOT has identified a number of themes for the improvement of Route 29. These include access control, congestion mitigation, corridor planning and multi-modal means of transportation. VDOT is also interested in increased stewardship or management of policies that affect Route 29.

The Board provided few comments on the study. C. Schmitt had attended the planning workshops. He recognized that many of the ideas put forth in those meetings may never be developed because of a lack of funding. S. Catalano was very interested in a statewide plan for Route 29 but showed some hesitance at increasing VDOT’s control over localities. He also observed that many localities relied on Route 29 as a business corridor because it was the only infrastructure available to them. B. Peyton felt that the most immediate need was to manage access to Route 29. In his opinion, new housing developments should never be given direct access to 29 but should instead be required to link to existing secondary roads to access Route 29. The Board generally agreed that an overarching plan for the corridor is needed, however; that plan needs to be sensitive to the challenges that small localities like Greene County face.

The Board moved quickly through the consent agenda and a few housekeeping matters from their Executive Session. With no comment from the public or other matters from the Board the meeting was adjourned.

Greene County Board of Supervisors Discusses School Budget Shortfall

By. Kara Reese Pennella

Action Summary: RZ#08-004 Public Hearing regarding Jefferson Area Board for Aging request to rezone from R-1, Residential to SR, Senior Residential approximately 15.16 acres located near Preddy Creek Road – Withdrawn by applicant

Motion to authorize Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission to seek grant funds for the addition of affordable housing for the disabled to the Comprehensive Plan – Approved

The Greene County Board of Supervisors held an unusually brief meeting on Tuesday, February 24, 2009. JABA withdrew its request to rezone property located near Preddy Creek for a senior residential facility which considerably lightened the agenda. The School Board provided a presentation to the Board of Supervisors regarding a deficit in the 2008 Fiscal Year Budget of about $100,000. While the Schools were actually under budget for the year a reduction in revenue and other unexpected expenses resulted in the shortfall. Superintendent Jeck noted that when the budget was drafted at the beginning of the year they had projected a 1% increase in students. Instead the school saw a 1% decrease in enrollment. This resulted in significant decrease in State funds. In addition, the school system  faced increased fuel and energy costs and legal fees which placed further burdens on its finances. After some discussion regarding why they were just now discovering this shortfall, both Boards decided to add this item to their combined workshop for further discussion.

In matters from the public, Andrea Wilkinson addressed the Board regarding health insurance. She explained that she believes that high deductable plans combined with health savings accounts are going to be the future of health care. She believes switching to this type of insurance will save companies and the County significant money. She also noted that there is a bill being considered by the Virginia Legislature that would require the state and counties to switch to this system.

In other matters from the Board, S Catalano reported that Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission had requested permission to seek grant funds that would be used toward researching and drafting a section of the Comprehensive Plan dealing with affordable housing for disabled individuals. C. Schmitt moved that the Board authorize TJPDC to seek the grant funds. The motion passed by a unanimous vote.

The next Board of Supervisor’s meeting will be March 10, 2009.